As the story is told, this was how the 12 Chinese Zodiacs had come to be……
Once upon a time in the very distant past, it was not convenient to be alive, because people do not know how to keep tract of time. For this reason, they asked the Jade Emperor (God) for help. According to the Jade Emperor, since human beings are closely related to animals, keeping tract of time could be made easy by using the names of twelve animals. The question is: of all the animals in the world, which are the ones that should be included? The Jade Emperor thought that it should be decided on the basis of some competition. The first twelve animals that cross the river and reach the destination first should become the 12 Chinese Zodiacs.
At the time, as cat and Rat were very good friends, this was what the Rat said to the Cat. “I want be one of the twelve. But I am not only small, but also cannot swim. What should I do?” To this, the cat replied: “We can ask big brother Ox (or buffalo) to wake us up and take us across the river early in the morning. In this way, we shall be able to be ahead of the others.”
So, on the day of the competition, the Ox woke the cat and Rat early before daybreak, let them sat on his back, and carry them across the river even before any of the other animals showed up. But the Rat began to worry and said secretly to himself: “Even though I am now in front of the others, how can I outrun the Ox and the cat so as to become number one?” Thus, in his selfish and sly sort of way, he thought he had better do something about that.
So, when they were about halfway across the river, the Rat said to the cat: “My Big brother, take a look, the surrounding scenery is really great!” Upon hearing these words, the cat began to look around. As he was doing so, the Rat pushed him mercilessly into the river, and hid himself in the ear of the Ox.
When they got to the other side of the river, just as the Ox thought that he had won the race, the Rat suddenly jumped out of his ear and darted forth to become number one. When the Ox realized that he could only be number two, he was very angry and grunted repeatedly at the Rat. Not much later, the Tiger, wet from head to tail, also came out of the river and thought that he was the first to have arrived, without realizing that the Rat and Ox were already there before him.
What happened next was that when the huge Dragon was about to descend from the sky toward the destination, a little Rabbit was seen dashing and hopping across the finishing line to claim the number four spot. One thing to note is that the Dragon could actually have arrived earlier than this. But due to the fact that he had to carry out his duty of sending rain to the earth, he was thus delayed and could only claim the fifth position.
Soon after, there were also many other kinds of animals running toward the destination, with the Horse leading in front. Just as when the Horse saw that he was almost there, a Snake suddenly came of the grass claiming to be ahead of the Horse saying: “I am already here, I arrived earlier than you”. Now, behind the Horse also came the Sheep, the Monkey and the Chicken, with the Dog and the Pig following behind. But the Pig was not aware of what the running was all about. He made everyone laughed when he inquired as to whether a lot of food was to be had.
Thus, when the race was over, this was what the Jade emperor proclaimed: “The order of the twelve Chinese Zodiacs will be like this: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog, and Pig.” However, the trouble for the Rat is that even though it was first, the fact remains that it had made an enemy out of the Cat. It is also for this reason that whenever a Cat sees a Rat, it would want to revenge on the Rat’s evil deeds by eating it.